People Take Warning: Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs 1913 - 1938Album |
An American folk anthology for historians and newcomers alike.
One of the most historically-important reissues since Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, People Take Warning!: Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs 1913-1938 is, crucially, musically fascinating as well: these uniformly powerful performances transcend both their historical distance and the sometimes-dodgy quality of scratchy vintage 78s. Despite the slightly-misleading subtitle, compilers Henry Sapozik and Christopher King focus on the heyday of traditional folk, country and blues: 64 of the 70 songs were recorded between 1924 and 1935. Rather than a strictly chronological survey, they helpfully split the songs into three thematically-linked discs that both reveal their connections and illustrate the nature of the folk process. For example, first disc "Man Vs. Machine" is studded with no fewer than six songs about the sinking of the Titanic, including two startlingly different versions of campfire-singalong standard "When That Great Ship Went Down," by country singer Ernest Stoneman and gospel-blues duo William and Versey Smith. (The latter is one of a few songs the collection shares with Smith's anthology.) The second disc covers natural disasters, from well-known tragedies like the 1927 Mississippi River flood to local calamities: flu outbreaks, fires, mine cave-ins. The final disc gathers some of the best-known American murder ballads (featuring mythic figures like Stagger Lee, Frankie and Johnny, and Tom Dooley) alongside still-chilling, nearly journalistic tales of murder and retribution. Most of the artists will be unknown to listeners who aren't dedicated folk historians, but this is perhaps the most useful introduction to American folk music ever assembled.
|People Take Warning!: Critical Connections|